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Can we say : i need to start to collect/gather documents one and half a year ahead of time? Or what do we need to say when we're talking in advance?

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The answer depends on the context. You could say

I should start collecting documents a year and a half in advance of applying to graduate school.

or

I plan to apply to graduate school. I need to start collecting documents a year and a half in advance.

In the second version "in advance of applying" is implied.

Note. I think "to start to collect" is awkward. "Year and a half" is more idiomatic than "one and a half years".

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